Five Octave Range
Paul Wong, 2017
Non-synced loops, colour, sound,
Four channel video installation
Also available as a single channel version
Five Octave Range (2017) was created as a site-specific outdoor work for the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza. It was presented as a multi-screen video installation on four round screens. Created as a series of non-synchronized video and sound loops that permitted an uncanny relationship to coalesce between sound and picture, these portals will provided viewers access to an up-close and personal experience with opera. Much like jazz, it is free form and abstract.
In early March 2017, Paul Wong invited four opera singers to his studio to perform for the camera. They were given a few basic instructions beforehand: it would be an a capella performance, and no rehearsals were needed. Further, they would be recording in front of a green screen, and should costume themselves as they would for a mainstage role.
Paul Wong selected these four singers (two men and two women) to ensure a diverse and dynamic range of voices and languages: baritone, tenor, coloratura soprano and mezzo-soprano; English, French, German, Italian and Kwagiulth.
The recordings took place in an industrial warehouse space with very ‘live’ acoustics. Each artist first did a warm-up routine on camera and then performed a signature conventional piece form the operatic repertoire that best highlighted his or her vocal range. In addition, they also sang a favourite work of their choice. Every performance was captured in one take.
From the outset, the performers were aware of Paul’s intended experimental approach. Paul was not interested in simply representing a musical piece or a literal performance. Rather, he wanted to explore, and play with vocal and visual gestures, repetition, decay, resonance, motion, purity, abstraction, mashing and mixing.
This work was created through the editing process, listening to the sound of the vocalizations and rhythms, and looking at the artists’ gestures. The camera’s framing of the performers was Paul’s guide, telling him what to do and where to go with the sounds and images. It was a visceral response: Paul is not a trained musician, nor is he at all that familiar with opera. He just knows what he likes. The voice is a magical instrument, and these performers are finely tuned. Paul thinks of these videos as portraits.
Commissioned by Vancouver Opera
Five Octave Range has been underwritten by a generous grant from the McGrane-Pearson Endowment Fund, with additional in-kind assistance from the Vivo Media Arts Centre.
Director: Paul Wong
Producer: Thomas Anselmi
Video Production: Kevin Doherty
Sound Recording Design: Paddy Ryan
Casting: Rachel Iwaasa
Production Assistants: Jeff Berg and Sebnem Ozpeta